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Representation and the self in Stoicism By: Calista Allen, Sam Thompson, Neil Brandt.

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1 Representation and the self in Stoicism By: Calista Allen, Sam Thompson, Neil Brandt

2 Phantasia -Representation Originated in Plato, meaning a perception that an entity elicits in one or more observers Necessarily individual experiences “The Stoics classify all occurrent sensations and feelings, recollections, imaginations, and all transient thoughts as ‘representations’. There is no other faculty in virtue of which mental states can appear to the self that has them’” (Long, p271). Every representation has a corresponding lekta (or sayable) that captures some but not all of its content

3 Horme -Impulse “Human beings are animals, albeit “rational” ones. Their animal nature is evident by the fact that they have a “soul”, where soul signifies agency, or a creature’s capacity to cause itself to move about the world. The self-motion of animals is due to the conjoint operation of two faculties, phantasia and horme, ‘impulse’” (Long 267-268). Animals have a non-rational commanding faculty of soul, which is why humans differ from animals

4 Synkatathesis- Assent Synkatathesis -3rd faculty of the human soul, the power of giving or withholding assent to representations The Stoics intuition that assent is an essential faculty of the human soul draws attention to their interest in the self, the first-person perspective, what each individual does with his experience. Any representation is a part of my experience, but I can make it mine,- my outlook, or belied, or commitment- or not mine, by giving or withholding assent (Long 274). Giving assent to a representation allows for action

5 Epictetus and Prohairesis “Epictutus repeatedly insists that an ethically good life is equivalent to making correct or proper use of representations” (Long 275). Epictetus claims that the one faculty given to us by the gods is prohairesis, or a person’s moral character (defined by the way a person evaluates representations and gives or withholds assent) “You are not flesh nor hair, but prohairesis : if you get that beautiful, then you will be beautiful,”-Epictetus (Long, p276) According to Epictetus, the act of assenting is the defining faculty of the self, because there must be a “me” that is assenting to a certain representation (Long, p276)

6 Epictetus cont. “There is a normative way of living, a rational life ‘in accordance with nature’, which we are genetically equipped to understand, as our reason and experience develop, and which specifies what we should all seek as moral agents. Stoic self- fashioning is not a case of making up one’s own values, but learning to take the norma of nature as one’s own” (Long 283). So prohairesis is humans using their natural rational capacity to give or withhold assent to representations

7 Concerns about Prohairesis If our beliefs and desires are based on previous representations, how can we accurately judge new representations through prohairesis ? Should a wrongdoer be blamed or pitied? How do we know not to act upon our first impression? To have a representation of something as bad, would you need to first witness or be part of a bad experience?

8 Defense of Prohairesis Epictetus says that we are predisposed to assent to representations that appear to be true. So our previous experiences do affect our judgment (Long, 276) We should pity wrongdoers and teach them how to remove themselves from representations and better evaluate them (Long, 277) To avoid acting upon first impressions, we must apply our pre-existing beliefs on morality to our representations in the correct way. An example of how not to do it is Medea—decided revenge was more important than her kids (Long 278-279)

9 Lekta and the 3 faculties “Epictetus insists that ‘the correct us of representations’ is ‘in our power’. It is reasonable to suggest that what is in our power is a lekton or description, and that this is ‘our’ individual contribution to our representations. In that case, the mind’s freedom from constraint, so strongly emphasised by Epictetus, fains a (transcendental?) dimension that scholars of Stoicism have tended to overlook (Long 285). It is up to an individual to “decide what lekton matches their situation, what precisely they are experiencing, and how they should evaluate the experience” (Long 285). “The corporeal mind of the Stoics must have access to the incorporeal lekta, but the process by which it does so remains a mystery” (Long 285).

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